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Why is Vauxhall called Opel?

If you’ve ever taken a trip across the Channel and holidayed on the continent, it’s almost certain that you’ve come across a range of Astras, Corsas, and maybe a Zafira or two. While these vehicles are something you will always recognise (even if you’ve never considered yourself someone who knows anything about cars), there is something different about them.
The body is familiar, the reliable feel and comfort are familiar, but the branding is where things start to change. Rather than see the well-known Vauxhall symbol, there is something else. Opel? What is Opel, and what has it done with Vauxhall?

What is Opel?

Opel is a German manufacturing brand that develops and distributes cars under the Opel name; you would recognise the sideways lightning bolt logo as soon as you see it. Opel builds vehicles that are also sold in other parts of the world under a variety of names. For example, its cars are sold under the Buick nameplate in North America and China, whereas it is called Holden in Australia.

This in itself makes sense if you know anything about branding. These markets are overseas, but the UK is part of Europe, the same place as Germany. So, wouldn’t that dictate that the Opel name should be found in Britain, also?

Vauxhall vs Opel

The difference between Vauxhall & Opel is merely in the origins. Opel manufactured its first car in 1899, whereas Vauxhall did not create its first car until 1903. Both brands proved popular at home, and Opel even caught the eye of American corporation General Motors, thanks to its vast market share within Germany. 

GM was so impressed with Opel’s performance that they bought 80% of the company in 1928 following the popularity of the Laubforsch, and this rose to 100% in 1931, with a deal that greatly benefited both Opel and GM. in just one swoop, Opel earned an astounding $33.3 million. The partnership has endured ever since. 

But what about Vauxhall? Its first cars certainly conjured up interest, with a successful Y-Type that was one of the most comfortable and relaxing vehicles currently in existence. Like Opel, Vauxhall’s reputation grew, and GM actually purchased Vauxhall before they did Opel, in 1925. 

However, following the Second World War, Vauxhall’s fortunes took a turn for the worst. The build quality declined, and strikes in the 60s and 70s put Vauxhall in a precarious position. Conversely, the economic surge in West Germany meant business was booming for Opel.

It was then that General Motors decided to implement Opel designs into British Vauxhalls to ensure the future of the company. The last British Vauxhall was built in 1972, and from there, all designs came through Opel, with increased build quality and performance, putting Vauxhall back on track.

Summing Up

So, to summarise, Vauxhall is called Opel in Europe because that is where the cars are manufactured. While Vauxhall will make a few adjustments here and there, the overall design, for the most part, is identical. Yes, Vauxhall is a British brand, but the car itself is German. Still, with 250,000 sales and over 4,000 employees in the UK, there is no reason to rebrand to its continental counterpart.


Get in touch with Drive Vauxhall to find out more.

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Drive Motor Retail limited is an appointed representative of Automotive Compliance Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA No 497010). Automotive Compliance Ltd's permissions as a Principal Firm allows Drive Motor Retail to act as an agent on behalf of the insurer for insurance distribution activities only.